Health summit opens in Upper Nile

23 May 2012

Health summit opens in Upper Nile

21 May 2012 - Aiming to strengthen the health system in Upper Nile State, especially in remote areas, a two-day health summit opened today in the capital Malakal.

Addressing the event, themed "Reaching out to the community for better health for all", State Governor Maj. Gen. Simon Kun Pouch told the gathering that health was a priority after security.

"If we fail to provide health services then we will not have manpower that can cultivate, catch fish, collect food or defend the nation," the governor said.

He called on the Ministry of Health to monitor county-assigned assets to ensure their proper use in providing medical services to rural communities, stressing that any misuse of health assets would be dealt with seriously.

Patients were spending much money seeking medical treatment abroad, as existing health facilities were poorly equipped and staffed, Mr. Pouch said.

Also present were state Ministry of Health officials, county commissioners as well as health officers and representatives of UNICEF, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), World Health Organization (WHO) and Interchurch Medical Assistance (IMA).

Newly sworn in Minister of Health Dr. Charles Yor Odhok asked international partners to provide training for state health workers.

"We want to train health workers so that we improve and uplift health conditions, especially (for) public health to reach ... remote places where more people are not aware about the importance of hygiene," he said.

Romanus Mkerenga, UNICEF chief of health and nutrition in South Sudan, said his organization was finalizing the construction of a paediatric hospital in Malakal.

UNICEF was also planning to put in place a cold-chain – temperature-controlled fridges and freezers that store and preserve pharmaceutical drugs and vaccines -- in all state payams (districts) to improve access to vaccines, he added.

The two-day summit was a culmination of the just-concluded dry season health awareness campaign which started in January. The preventive campaign targeted Upper Nile's 13 counties to sensitize communities in areas like HIV/AIDS, water sanitation and hygiene.